Years-End Best Books Awards from Hearts & Minds: Break Out the Spinny Tin Things

It was just a few posts ago that we referred you to the recent Hearts & Minds website that listed, in our November monthly column, our description of the best of the landslide of Narnia-related books. I have no cynicism about this recent publishing trend and many of these Lewis bios and Narnia studies are really quite good. We hope that we helped renew your interest in Kilny stuff and trust it was worth reading. Maybe your gang should host some post-movie LWW discussion groups or book clubs, using one or two of these as a resource.
NOW, we are very pleased to announce the Hearts & Minds End of the Year Best Book Awards. Check it out to see our website’s December column and see my picks for everything from the Best Really Big Fat Book I Read This Year (and it wasn’t 1776 which was almost fat enough to count, but I haven’t read yet anyway) to a celebration of the year’s best re-issues; I awarded some odd little picks about good books with bad covers, and named some of our favorite novels. Of course, there is “the” best book of the year; couldn’t name just one, natch, so there are a couple of runners up (or should that be runner-ups?) There’s even an Half-hearted Award for a popular topic about which I had huge ambivalence.
It is almost time to break out the spinny tin things you swing around and shake on New Year’s eve, or those little horns that uncurl those annoying paper tongues. You can warm ’em up here by tooting along for these H & M award winners. It may not be the New York Times or Christianity Today, but we are confident we have honored some truly important books. Anybody find any glaring misses? Want to add your favs? Come on, readers! What would you list?

15 thoughts on “Years-End Best Books Awards from Hearts & Minds: Break Out the Spinny Tin Things

  1. Byron,It was a treat to read this year’s picks along with your comments. I think the Nooma dvds have been out for a while and they are not a book, BUT I think they’d fit in some category for “best discussion starters”. They’ve been of great benefit to me and those I care about. Secondly, great work with the categories. Truly one of a kind.oh and lastly under the memoir category I’d add “Little Chapel on the River.” It’s a charming read about a legendary pub outside of NYC. The book’s described as a “love story about a place and the people who bring it to life.”peace,Christie

  2. Christie,Thanks so much for sharing these great choices! Yeeaaah!I wanted to list the Noomas, and didn’t know how to say it. You are so right! Do you have a favorite of them, or one those who are unfamiliar should start with/ (Trees, of course, is the best for my purposes; the sex one, Flame, is spectacular; those who are frustrated with pushy evangelists would love Bullhorn—“Bullhorn guy: put the bullhorn down!”)Anyway, good call.I’ve wanted to read that chapel book–about a bar– and wondered if it was any good. You loved it, eh? Nice. Thanks for the recommendation, since I just wasn’t sure….I think I’d naturally like that kind of a book, though.Thanks for reading and sharing.Byron

  3. For a substantive explanation for the above, see: a related but broader topic, Byron, I know it’s not in your interests as a bookseller to write negative reviews, but are there ever any books you downright dislike, think are wrong, or harmful?Good to see Gideon get in BCW, and I’m happy for the very small part could play in that!Anyway, thanks for the list. Please reconsider Winner!!!

  4. I happen to agree that the “Real Sex” book was great. If it didn’t get best book, it at least deserved to be in the top ten. What I object to is that “The Art of Sandra Bowden” was passed over for “Broken Beauty” and the MOBIA book. Yes, they are both super cool, but for sheer number of beautiful images and as a delight to read, Sandra’s retrospective book is the best bang for the buck. AND, when bought together with the Faith and Vision book, you get a set of books with same # of pages, same size, and same publisher — certainly a better presentation on a coffee table than mix-matched thanks, byron, for including F+V on your list!

  5. HOW DO YOU DO IT? Yeesh, Byron, that list is beatific, stinkin’ hilariously categorized, exhausting because it’s all TOO GOOD! Thank you. Best blog about books and bookstores and faith and life: yours! Thanks for taking on this blog project.Note: your email? Notes have bounced back to me. I hope that means sales are good, your email box too full.peace to you–Denise

  6. Wow: thanks friends. THis is great feedback.Caleb: I have no idea why you would find Winner objectionable, but I will soon (very soon) study your link (and maybe reply, if I have any response.) Hmmm. I will look into that. I have two friends that dislike it, for two very different reasons; there was some good conversation when we had here in the store (including some tought questions from my daughter, Stephanie. Yeah.)Ned: How could I? I really intended to list that and for some reason it got ommitted. I think I had scratched my description on a yellow legal tablet and then switched to some index cards, and a whole foot-high pile of stuff that kept falling off my computer desk into the dinner plates….ugh. I thought I DID list that, and am dumb to have missed it. I know I intended to list it because, as a matter of fact, I found it hard to describe. The words didn’t quite come at first and then, when I found a way to briefly say what was so splendid about it, I was rather pleased with the annotation. Can I cuss on a Christian blogsite?I shall make amends, my friend, because I know you are asking 1. because the book deserves honors and 2. because you poured heart and soul and late hours into working on it. Anybody compulsive enough to be reading along this comment section will hear it first: yes, The Art of Sandra Bowden published by Square Halo is a glorious collection, a true beauty and I will blog about it soon. Promise.

  7. Caleb: I’ve actually thought about addressing this question of negative reviews sometime on a blog post. I have mixed feelings about it, since I could work my undies into a knot daily with the crap that is published (and I’ve written not a few letters to the CBA journal, even a firm rebuke to fellow judges in the Gold Medallion Award panel, etc) and yet I should hang my own head in shame—and sometimes do–for the mediocre stuff I sell and smile about. But there is only so much time and so much energy and I figure it is usually more Christ-like to light the proverbial candle. And hopefully it would be more lucrative, although that remains to be seen.I ranted for six or seven pages against Wild at Heart when it came out and the archived lambast still garners notes from all over the country. Horrible stories, some of them, about nearly abusive men who feel justified in their immaturity. Or, folks who see the troubles of substituting psychological catagories (authentic self vs inauthentic self) for more classic Pauline language of new man vs old man.) So that fiesty critique has been a helpful conversation starter, but I think I would have to find something that bad that is that popular that nobody else was critiquing for me to sense it wise to spend much time warning the masses.Which was why I just couldn’t go to press with much about the emergent debate. I had a critique of McLaren’s novel that I just didn’t feel added much, and then a very long reply to the mixed message of Carson’s book. I just didn’t feel quite wise enough to weigh in with anything of much help, so I skipped it.Thanks for asking, though. I do ponder if I’ve “earned the right” to be heard by any handful of folks and have therefore any kind of responsibility to offer critique. That does tend to happen here in the store, more, in face-to-face relationship with folks, offering counsel on what might be helpful or harmful for any particular customer in her particular stage of the journey.I don’t fully agree with Lewis about his chronilogical snobbery warning, although he is generally right. I don’t read mostly old books, and don’t aspire to. But I do find it troublesome how trite many contemporary books are and I warn of that sometimes (when a customer buys her umpteenth Max Lucado book or yet one more Swindoll study—all of which, I think, are fine in their place.) Or, the harm may be in being in a theological/ideological rut: I just gave an RTS student a book on anapabtism, not as a joke, but to keep the student balanced and honest. As only a partial office party joke, Beth and I gave each of our staff a book about a theological tradition other than their own—Augustan for a contemporary church gal; Calvin for a Methodist; Wesley for a Presbyterian. It got some laughs, and yet I trust it may remind us all of the breadth of the Body of Christ and the wonderful gift of so much good stuff. And with so much good to read, who has time to complain?And this: those of us who read a lot and like a lot may find something disagreeable in otherwise useful and enjoyable literature. But if I say one darn thing about something that Wendell Berry said that ticked me off–and there was a very sloppy sentence that sent me into a funk not long ago–and by noting it I discourage one person from spending their hard-earned cash on a Berry book, I will have done a diservice. I am perhaps too worried about this, but I know many folks can only afford the books they really, really feel are worthy, and if I start picking about details, they might be dissuaded from an otherwise wonderful new author. I do throw in some notes about my minor irritations, sometimes (even in my best of the years list) and I hope some will take some of that seriously (like warning about the sex in Steve Almonds fiction.)And, finally: I take expeption to much, and I honestly struggle–well, my family may think not earnestly enough–with self-righteousness and smugness. I don’t think it is good for my soul to get on my high horse too often. What do you think?Thanks for the good quesiton. comfort & joy,Byron

  8. Byron,Thanks for the great list.You’ve easily read a jillion more books than I did in 2005; I’ve only read a handful of this huge list. But now I have another very insightful list of great books to buy.I linked to the article over at VanguardChurch.

  9. Oh Byron, you are such a delight! I loved all the witty and imaginative categories you whipped up. Great stuff.Michele

  10. Byron, good answer, though I approach the issue somewhat differently. Actually, some of my views on the necessity of accountability for Christian, and especially Evangelical, authors is included in the above review of Winner. I’ll look forward to hearing your response to it.Best,Caleb

  11. And to think he got ’em all from H&M. Hey, seriously: anybody reading this comment section: go immediately to Bob’s good site, read his top ten reviews which are all right on. And then get lost in his other great stuff. And then come back (pretty please) and buy a couple of his top ten.And if you don’t have a top ten, you ain’t readin’ enough!Byron

  12. Okay, I’m going to add a whole category– is this within the rules? Best periodicals. (In the non-ficton category, I’m afraid short essays are sometimes as far as I can get.) 1)Orion magazine. I used to read it because it was the best environmental magazine out there– now I read it because it’s just plain some of the best writing out there. Bill McKibbon, Wendell Berry, David James Duncan, Robert Micheal Pyle, Terry Tempest Williams. The photography is stunning and I cannot be trusted– I will hide it if necessary in order to read it cover to cover.2) Image journal– great short fiction, as well as great writing on art and religion.3)Paste– what fun it is! I know so little of new artists that it sometimes exhausts me. Glad they added film.4) Interweave Knits– eye candy knitting patterns. I’ve just let my subscription go, as I have enough patterns for now until the end of time, and there’s a fab free online mag, to cover all my knitting needs. But still– I will sidle up to a copy at my local knitting stores, ooh and ah over it, then put it back.My New Year’s anti-resolution is to not read a single advice column, magazine, or book on parenting. My best books have come from Hearts and Minds– Writer’s Home Companion and The Soul Tells a Story. Looking forward to more.Fix your email, okay?

  13. BKB -Thank you for the list, and for your blog entries this past year – clearly both are a work of passion and consideration. In the past year I’ve bought a half-dozen of your recommendations (from Canadian sources, alas – should I ever find myself in your neck of the woods, I promise to drop a bundle in your store).Several have made quite a connection with me, particularly Walsh/Keesmat’s Colossians: Remixed. I passed it along to my pastor father, who made a point of buying several copies and passing them along as well. It seems to me your commentary is a manner of casting your bread out on the water – “kingdom work”, I suppose. Here’s hoping/praying for a bountiful return.Darrell Reimer (oh – I thought your philosophy of reviewing was worthy of its own blog entry. Perhaps when you’re stuck for words?)

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